Hector LaVoe was born Hector Juan Perez, on September 30th, 1946 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. “El Cantante De Los Cantantes”, as he is affectionately known, came to New York at age 17 with the dream of making it big. With no formal singing training this skinny kid from Barrio San Antonio in Ponce, caught the ears of Johnny Pacheco. Pacheco was amazed at the raw talent this young kid had. Because Pacheco already had a singer (Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez) and during those times you only needed one singer. Lavoe only sang sparingly on weekend gigs.
Later Pacheco, who at this time began to recruit musicians and singers for his new Fania label, introduced to Lavoe a young talented trombonist who was in need of a singer. This gifted trombonist was Willie Colon. Colon was in the process of a new recording with Al Santiago’s Alegre label when Pacheco saw the potential of Colon and included him on his roster. And as they say “the rest is history”.
Lavoe and Colon collaborated for eight years and for more than 10 albums. Willie Colon and Lavoe combined salsa, originally Afro-Cuban music, with Puerto Rican bombas, plenas, orisa, baquine y aginaldos, cumbia, merengue, and other Latin American music, as well as Jazz. Hector Lavoe sang every aspect of our culture and religions from Catholicism to Santeria. Many hits like “Che Che Cole” to “Rompe Saraguey” to “El Todo Poderoso” to “Mi Gente” .
Hector and Willie parted ways and most people thought that Lavoe could not make it on his own. They were proved wrong as Lavoe became even more popular. With hits like “El Cantante”, “Periodico De Ayer”, “Plato De Segunda Mesa” and many others Lavoe was at the top where he belonged.
Although he had fame, Hector also had to face many tragedies that followed him throughout his life. His mother died when he was only four years old. Later on in life, he suffered the death of his brother in a car wreck, the accidental death of his son who was only 17 years old, the murder of his mother-in-law, followed by the death of his father. The weight of these tragedies plus the alcohol and drugs addictions appeared to have taken its toll. The death of his son was the biggest blow that would finally break his heart. Hector must have been emotionally drained, for in 1988, Hector jumped off the ninth floor of a hotel room in El Condado. Some thought that it was an attempted suicide. Others that the drugs and booze were finally affecting him. Some close to him though, say that Hector had seen a vision of his son appear outside the window, asking him to come. It was another tragedy added to his life. Hector was never the same again. He later appeared in clubs to sing a few songs, but his health continued to deteriorate until he died on June 29, 1993.